Online photo-printing services are not a new concept. There are a plethora of competing websites that offer a range of products, catering for the requirements of casual one-time users through to professional photographic studios. With the increasing cost of ink, home printing can be prohibitively expensive for amateur photographers, who may only be looking to produce a few prints per month. In these cases, ink can be wasted if left unused for extended periods, further complicating the economics of the self-printing process. Meanwhile, for large-format prints, professionals can still benefit from online options, if reproductions at these large sizes are rarely a necessity.
For serious photographers, Tesco may not suggest itself as a reliable professional resource, but as is the case with rival supermarket ASDA, the large customer footfall, both online and in-store, provides these companies with access to a very lucrative market of amateurs and enthusiasts, allowing significantly reduced per print prices, due to economics of scale. Offering 6x4-inch prints from a cost of 5p each, Tesco Photo represents an affordable gateway to hardcopy image output. This figure only applies when images are purchased in batches of 500 or more, although the per print cost only increases to 15p when ordered individually, or in a batch of up to 199. The maximum standard print size is 12x8in, which comes at a cost of £2.50 per print – still significantly cheaper than if attempting to print at this size using a lab-quality home photo printer.
These prices are those quoted for Tesco’s 8-day delivery service – for a premium, users can select to have images processed and printed within an hour, ready for collection from a designated Tesco store. For most sizes the cost is roughly doubled, which does make the larger formats slightly less attractive when compared to dedicated professional online labs. For example, DS Colour Labs offer 12x8in prints at 60p each, plus a fixed express delivery cost, whereas the Tesco service requires an outlay of £6. While the one-hour turnaround is impressive, there are admittedly few occasions when this would be necessary and the increased cost potentially negates the advantage of using a mass-production service such as Tesco Photo.
When compared to Asda’s printing service, Tesco is more expensive, albeit only by a few pennies for smaller prints, but more significantly so for the larger sizes. Pleasingly however, for the 8-day service, free delivery to a store is possible with the Click and Collect option – an advantage over online print labs, with no high street outlets.
Ease of use
Since it is primarily aimed at entry-level users, the online interface is effectively simple to navigate and operate. The controls are logically laid out and easy to read – indeed they should be familiar to users of other Tesco online shopping services. Images can sourced from either social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram and (handily for advanced photographers) Flickr, the common cloud storage providers (Dropbox, Google Drive and One Drive) or from the host device.
Print size is instantly accessible from a menu below the image preview, as are cropping options and special effects. From start to finish, the process of selecting and preparing an image for print and ordering is achievable in less than 5 minutes – a streamlined and efficient system. One point of concern is the number of outlets at which prints can be collected. Not every Tesco Store currently has a photo department, so if using the 1-hour collection, you may have to be prepared to travel to the nearest photo-equipped branch.
As far as adjustment tools are concerned, the editor on the Tesco Photo website is fairly limited, allowing access to cropping and a very restricted selection of photo effects only. These effects consist of a Black and White and Sepia option, both of which do not provided the richness of conversions possible in an external application such as Photoshop. While fun for casual users, these are best avoided.
The print quality itself is quite impressive. Colour reproduction is vivid yet faithful to the colour integrity of the source file. Detail and sharpness are maintained to a consistently acceptable level and contrast is suitable for most subject types. Disappointingly there is no option for lustre paper, so users must settle for glossy prints, which is less attractive for certain images and less forgiving of bright highlights and underexposed shadow areas.
It would also be nice to see a red-eye reduction option - while not particularly sought after by professional photographers, it will no doubt be missed by the general public. Printing operation is clearly conducted to a high standard and compares well against glossy prints made using professional photo labs.
Tesco Photo is functionally limited, so image editing should be finalised before upload. Prints are comparatively expensive, suggesting dedicated professional online labs as a better option for serious photographers. However, it offers an easy-to-use, rapid turnaround service for novices.
Maximum print size: 12x8 inches
Minimum print size: 6x4 inches
Home delivery charge: £2.50
Paper type options: Glossy
Service options: 1 hour process, 8 day home delivery, 8 day click and collect
Minimum order: 1 copy
Maximum order: 500+